This article is part of a series about getting fit in the new year. Check out the entire Man up! feature here.
When the clock strikes midnight this New Year’s Eve, millions of people will drink champagne, kiss a loved one… and resolve to finally lose that weight and get fit. By sometime in early February, that resolution will be long forgotten.
Most people give up on their fitness vow because it’s too hard, too time consuming, or just too damn inconvenient. Or because they have better things to do — like polish off that Heart Attack in a Sack on the couch while watching the game. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can honor your lose-my-flabby-beer-gut resolution with a little determination. And by backing away from the super-sized value meal and following these 10 Tips for Sticking with Your Fitness Routine.
1. Start Small
Forget “Go Hard or Go Home.” If you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to need to work up to it. Many people hit their first workout hard, get injured or overly sore, or both, and end up quitting. If you’ve been couch bound for a while, start with a 15-20 minute walk a few times a week. And work your way up to a full workout.
One of the most common things I see in the gym is a noob wandering around lost, trying out a couple of pieces of equipment, flailing around, then leaving, never to be seen again. Look, no one expects you to just know how to exercise properly, like it’s some instinctual part of being a guy. Grab a couple of books or magazines, search the Interwebs, and learn a few basic exercises. That’s all you’ll need at the beginning. Keep learning, keep adding to your routine, and you’ll keep at it.
Like I just said, one of the biggest reasons guys give up is lack of knowledge about what to do. Another big reason is they know what to do, but don’t do it regularly. They’ll do a couple of exercises, forget to do a couple, not feel like doing others. And eventually they’ll dwindle down to not doing any of it.
Create a routine, stick to it, and you’ll find you’re doing more complete workouts. Better still: Create a few routines you can rotate to keep it interesting, and to keep you from getting stale and not seeing continued results.
4. Do Something You Enjoy
Years ago, when I was the fitness director at a spa, a woman came to me after a class and begged me to talk to her husband. She was concerned because he never exercised. I asked if he came home from work and just sat on the couch all night. She said no. He was out playing basketball 3-4 nights per week. I told her that, um, he was exercising. And exercising more than most guys. Her reply? “That can’t be exercise… he does it for fun.”
Just because it’s a “work”out doesn’t mean you have to think of it as work. A pickup game of 3-on-3, a 20-minute swim, kayaking on the lake all day, biking through the mountains…all fun. And all exercise.
A lot of people I know (myself included), find it better to have to go someplace to workout. Get in the car and steer it toward the gym parking lot, and you figure, “Well, I’m here, I might as well work out.” Plus, the expense of a membership can motivate you to actually get your money’s worth.
On the other hand, a lot of guys don’t want to be around a bunch of strangers while they are sweating like a 9-year-old boy at a Michael Jackson sleep over. (Still too soon?) Or while they are trying out exercises for the first time. Or working off that extra 20-something pounds. If you feel that you’ll do better in the privacy of your own four walls, then do that. Just make sure to turn off the cell phone and resist the urge to check emails.
Didn’t workout today? What did it cost you? If the answer is “nothing” then you’ve got no reason to workout. Have a consequence for not hitting the gym. Didn’t do your cardio this week? You’ve got to paint the garage floor. Skipped your chest and tri workout? Take your girlfriend to that chick flick she’s been dying to see. Make it painful and going to the gym won’t feel so bad.
On the flip side, give yourself a reward once in a while for getting in there and sweating. New personal best on the squat? Someone’s getting court side seats this weekend.
No one said you had to fly solo on this fitness journey. Get yourself a buddy to work out with. You’ll push each other to go, and it can make it a lot more fun than struggling through a routine alone. And you don’t need a partner to go with you if you can’t find one. An accountability partner works just as well. Charge someone with keeping tabs on you and your progress. And have them be responsible for administering the consequences for backing out.
9. Schedule a Set Time
You know how you eat lunch everyday at noon? Or find time to be on the couch, undisturbed, to watch an entire four quarters of Monday Night Football? Then you should be able to carve out 30-60 minutes to work on that gut of yours. Put it on your iCal and honor it. Every. Time.
Don’t squeeze your workout time in when you’ve got nothing else going on. If you’re getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to push some iron, and you normally sleep till 8, you’re going to give up. Same goes for penciling it in for after dinner if you’re going to be tired and not want to go. Pick a time that works well with your schedule, and won’t make you stressed.
If you have no idea where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there. Imagine getting behind the wheel of a car and just driving. After a while, no matter how sweet the car is, or how beautiful the scenery, you’re going to get bored just going nowhere in particular. Same goes for working out without a set of goals.
Decide to lose 4 pounds by the 15th. Or bench press your body weight for 20 reps. Or keep your heart rate in the target zone for 20 minutes — whatever you can realistically achieve. (Make it unrealistic and you just set yourself up for failure, and a guaranteed “screw this” attitude.) Once you hit your goal, reward yourself, then set another.
Stick to these 11 tips and you’ll stick to your fitness resolution until it’s time to make another one.